Morning Headlines: Local Group Opposes Selling Shuttered School in Point Breeze to Developer
A sudden change in sale plans for the shuttered Walter G. Smith Elementary School at 19th and Wharton has residents miffed: the building is pending sale with a D.C.-based developer set to acquire it.
According to the Philadelphia Tribune’s Wilford Shamlin III, the Point Breeze Community Development Coalition was originally in talks with Independence Charter in order to keep the building as an educational institution. However, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission has opted to go in a different direction by selling the property to the Concordia Group, a real estate developer who residents think will do little to help the neighborhood:
The company has a reputation for acquiring real-estate and then pursuing zoning changes that allow the company to resell the property and turn a profit on the back end, [Deborah] Cianfrani said.
Point Breeze residents fear the school will be demolished and residential housing will go up in its place, bringing in more residents, increasing demand for local services, and further squeezing limited parking.
Shamlin reports Cianfrani, the attorney hired by the Point Breeze group, announced yesterday that she would be looking to get a court injunction to temporarily stall the deal with Concordia (who, by the way, has already bought six school buildings in Philadelphia). As of today, the pending sale for Smith is in its “due diligence stage.”
Point Breeze Community Development Coalition president Claudia Sherrod added that the building is “not suitable for housing.” From the Tribune:
[Sherrod] said the vacant schools are fetching below-market prices at a loss to the school district but leaving the neighborhood to the long-term consequences if the property is developed into residential housing.
“We have needs for our community too,” she said. “We will not be overthrown with market-rate housing.”
In addition to Cianfrani’s injunction, the coalition has sent the School Reform Commission a letter protesting the sale.
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